Maviammachi:A faded memory
Maviammachi:A faded memory
Selena was relaxing in the couch, while watching the India-Australia cricket match with her family in the evening when the phone rang.
"Hello . . "
It was her mother Thresiamma on the other end.
"Hello . . . I just called Mole . . . nothing important. . . . Do you remember a Maaviyammachi who lived near us, years ago?? . .
"Yes. . . What a question it is. . Amma. . How can we forget her?She was such a loving Ammachi"
"I know mole. . . She died this morning . . A sister from Shantigiri rang home in the afternoon . . . . . Our number was written in her diary, She told. . . . . .
Funeral will be at the Kazhakoottam St. Agnes church tomorrow at 11' o clock. . Helena Mol doesn't have a class tomorrow, does she? Think about it . . . where's everyone ?? "
Selena followed her mother's talk and strolled back and forth in the memory lane, for few seconds.
"Hello. . . Mole"
"Oh. . . Yes Amma. . "she turned her head to the left and looked at Tomy and Helena engrossed in the match.
"They are here . . . watching cricket . . . Amma. . It's normal. . . but it's hard to take it when it is sudden. . Poor Maaviyammachi. . . when was the last time. . we met her?. . . . I do not know what to say . . . Oh. . . K. . . Bye now, Amma. .
Will see you tomorrow, hopefully . . . . "
Selena went straight to the kitchen with the phone and made a coffee. That was her habbit. Coffee was her companion in disturbing situations. With a almost full coffe mug, she was back in front of the cricket, which had almost reached the end with just 3 or 4 overs left. Dont know why, but Selena couldn't drag her interest to see the rest of the match. She laid back and let herself flow again with the memories her mother's phone call had poured on her.
Selina and Maviammachi were the characters in that frame of memories. It was bit faded, but the characters were easily recognizable.
It was a cold peaceful Sunday morning. While enjoying her mother's special ghee-infused coffee along with Manorama newspaper outside the kitchen, Selena noticed 'Maviammachi' walking down very slowly, along the tarred road across the stream. She stopped for a while, bent a bit forward, held her right palm over the eyes and looked at Selina as if to make sure it was her. She asked something. But the water flow in the stream, which the previous day's rain had gifted, along with the short sight, which affected Selina couple of years ago, cheated on her.
"When did you come?" Maviammachi flavoured her question with a twist of her right palm. Selena guessed Maviammachi's question , to which she gestured in return, "Yesterday evening. "
'Maviammachi' ended the meeting with a reply gesture of "will come back" by drawing a circle in the air with her right index finger. The two of them were convinced that there was no point in talking further from there, as it was difficult to understand each other, due to the sound of the flowing water.
Maviammachi was 60- 62 years old then. Calling her 'Maviyammachi ' makes people think that Selena had some close relation with her. But . . . No . . . But. . Her love was something similar to a loving grandmother living in the neighborhood. There was an invisible string that connected them, without the stickiness of relationships.
Maviyammachi , whose actual name was 'Elizabeth Thomas', was an old, fair-skinned, well-dressed, well-groomed woman with gray hair and glasses.
She had a very little life with her husband who served in the military. Maviammachi, lived only as his wife and remained a widow forever after his death. She had got used to clean living conditions and a disciplined life, from living in Bombay with her husband during the good times of life.
When she almost reached her old age, she returned home. Since she didnot have a house of her own, she was staying at a house of one of her distant relatives, who had settled abroad. These relatives, who were Selena's neighbours, loved her by letting her live in their house . They spared an eye of concern for her with a hidden thought of taking care of their house in return in their absence , which she did wholeheartedly.
On the way back from Kazhakoottam parish church in the afternoon, Maviammachi popped in. Selina had totally forgot about her and was sleeping after her lunch, She was six months pregnant at that time. She sat at the corner of the bed and asked softly,
"Selin Mole . . . . . Having a good sleep, I suppose. . . " The question was to herself while she rubbed Selena's feet.
"This afternoon sleep is going to make your baby a sleepyhead. . " She told like an experienced mother.
When Selena opened her eyes, she saw Maviyammachi, smiling at her, sitting at the foot of her bed wearing a pink kota sari with heavy grey chikan work on it and a matching grey blouse. She had a grey cross on her forehead. That's when Selina remembered that it was 'Ash Wednesday' that day. And perhaps because she came from the church, there was the smell of effervescence all over the room at that time.
Slowly getting up and talking, Selina couldn't take her eyes off her.
She looked grand. Selina wondered, how she could dress so elegantly alone at this age?
When she came to see the pregnant Selina, she had bought 2-3 types of fruits.
Selena saw the bundles on the table, which Maviayammachi had brought. . She turned over and unpacked one of the bundles and took an orange out of the and started peeling. She gave one piece to Selina and told. .
"It's good for the baby. . . C'mon. . . its vitamin C. "
"Yyo . . . I just had my lunch and my stomach is too full at the moment. Why did you buy all these, Ammachi. . When will I finish eating all these, I wonder. . ?"
"This is what you have to eat at this stage of pregnancy. . You know better than me, dear. . . Take your own time and eat everything slowly. "
Maviammachi smiled when she said this. Her smile spread to her eyes and from there to Selina's heart.
Four months later, Maviyammachi came to see her baby and hugged her. The baby was in the cradle. She kissed the baby on her fist. Selena was new to putting a Rs 2, 000 note in the baby's hand. Her eyes widened, when Maviammachi said,
"That's how it is in Bombay, my dear, when you visit a new borne for the first time. . "
Reading the surprise in Seliba's eyes, she also said that she should buy something for the baby with that money and that, its just a memory of a loving Grandmother .
Years later, the owners of the neighboring house were permanently relocated from abroad and so Maviammachi was moved to an old age home in the town. The nuns of Shantigiri warmly welcomed Mavi Ammachi as she had her husband's pension who once served the military and so she was not at all a botheration for them in any situation .
Once in a while, when she called home, she would say, 'Don't forget to convey my regards to Selina Mole, ' and sigh, 'When will I see them again, or will I ever see them again?? "
Years later that baby was growing up and was studying in third grade. Selina left office early one day and arrived at school to pick her daughter in the evening. She was an hour early, but didnt want to leave without her.
Then, she planned a visit to Shantigiri, where old Maviyammachi was staying, which was barely at a walking distance from the School.
I am Seline. Is Ms Elizabeth Thomas around? I am one of her old neighbours. I just came to pick my daughter up and thought of visiting her too. We used to call her Maviyammachi. "
The dark skinned , slim nun who introduced herself as Sr. Sofia, had a smile on her face all the time and Seline wondered how she maintained a pleasant face even at this hour of the day. Sr. Sofia pointed out to the left end of the corridor. Selena had in mind a smiling face of Maviyammachi opening the door, as she knocked on the door of one of the single rooms on one side of the dark corridor.
But, to her surprise , in a faded yellow nightie, with unkempt hair and sunken eyes, a tired, slender Maviyammachi opened the door and stared at Selina's face for a moment, then murmured,
"It's too late to change the glasses. " Despite that, she looked at Selina carefully and tried to remember that face.
After a few moments of exhaustion, she hugged Selina and said,
"Mole . . . . how long I have seen you !! Where is your daughter?? I have always wanted to see her and you. "
"She's in third grade now and she is now in the nearby school, Ammachi . "
"She catches the school bus usually. I had to come to the office today and I thought of giving her a surprise. There's an hour left for the school to leave. . . . . So I just thought of coming to see you . . . I knew that it was somewhere around but I didn't know that Shantigiri was so close "
We talked for a while about small things, health, and a carefree peaceful life with a pension . . loving nuns there and so on .
"If I'm here next time when you come, you should bring her too. . . Isn't it quite natural to want to see you all. I barely have any visitors here, you know. . !! "
"Sure, . . She would be excited. . . That's it for now Ammachi . . . . I'll make a move now and pick her up soon . . There's only 10 minutes left now. I'll hopefully see you again soon"
Selena grabbed her bag from the table and got set to leave. . She hugged Mavi, tight with her head on Selina's chest. . . She felt her weeping.
Selina's eyes also filled with tears. . .
Selena left the room without looking back. She was sure that a helpless crying face was right behind her.
Maviammachi was still waving from the door when Selina turned around and looked back before she went down the corridor to the steps.
After that day, She forgot completely about Maviammachi.
Selena got busy with her life, office and work. Her daughter was moved next year to another school which provided something better than the previous school.
Two or three years may have passed . . .
The torrent of memories subsided.
Cricket was over. The coffee in the mug was also finished.
Selena thought over and over and came to a decision. 'have to go to Kazhakkoottam church tomorrow anyway . . I cant let her go without seeing my daughter. . . So I have to take Helena mol too. "
A rhythmic sigh rose from Selena.
Kazhakkoottam church was an old, not too big church with its cemetery close to its right side.
Selina and her daughter were just on time. The service inside the church was about to finish. There were only a few at the church, including the nuns from Shanthigiri.
Before closing the cover of the coffin, someone among the bystanders passed on a handful of incense to her which she handed over to Helena Mol too. She looked up at her mother without knowing what to do with that.
Selina cried as she put it inside the box and into Maviammachi's body. Helena also imitated her mother.
"Mommy. . . Why are you crying. . ? "Helena grabbed her mother's hand.
She said in her mind as she held Helena close. "Ammachi . . Here. . . she is. . . . My Daughter. . . I am sorry, I couldnt make it in time. . . "
The words flowed into her chest along with the tears.
Even as they closed the lid of the coffin, Selina felt like she still had that old smile on her face.
On the way back, while in the bus and then sometimes coincidentally, the smell of incense pushed her back to a bundle of memories wrapped in Maviayammachi's chicken work-sari.